Innovative Therapy for Teen Depression

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About the project Edit

A research team led by Sally Merry at the University of Auckland has designed a computerized cognitive behavioral therapy intervention for adolescents seeking help for depression called SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts), and tested it on nearly 200 New Zealand adolescents aged 12 to 19. The researchers developed a computer-based intervention because the medium is so attractive to most young people.
The results of the intervention suggest that SPARX may be an effective alternative to traditional care for depressed adolescents. In particular, it may be useful in addressing some of the unmet demand for treatment.
What is SPARX? Simply put, SPARX is a video game that provides therapy for the user, although the user may be receiving the therapy unwittingly. More specifically, SPARX is an interactive fantasy game that uses both first person instruction and a three dimensional interactive game in which the young person undertakes a series of challenges to restore the balance in a fantasy world dominated by GNATs (Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts). The program, delivered on CD-ROM, consists of seven modules focusing on getting participants to find hope, deal with emotions, overcome problems, and recognize and shift negative thoughts. It also guides participants to set and monitor real-life challenges, equivalent to homework. The game is supplemented by a paper notebook with summaries of each module and spaces to add comments about the challenges completed.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Creating a video game to help fight depression allows many more teens to get help

What is the social value of this project? Edit

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

This game could be used anywhere that teenagers are interested in video games. The project began in Australia but that doesn't mean it has to stay there!

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Lack of access for teens to CBT and other forms of treatment for depression

What is the business model of this project? Edit


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